How to MacGyver a broken electric smoker!

I knew a month ago that my smoker was broken but being the Frugal Guru that I am (read: cheap) I couldn't throw it away! Using my culinary MacGyver skills I decided I could still use it to smoke the chicken I was doing for this July 4th weekend.
WOW! My smoker has faded over the years! I wonder if that is from a combination of heat and sun? 
 I realized that I could easily make this usable as a charcoal smoker. The bottom of my smoker has a round electric element with lava rocks. Otherwise there was plenty of room and a metal bowl as a base. I had my wife get a bag of Match Light Charcoal when she was at the store.
I read the directions (because it has been awhile) and piled my charcoal up on the lava rocks like an upside down cone and lit them. Later I spread the coals out and waited for the fire to die down. About ten minutes. Just like the directions said. Funny thing about directions, sometimes they work. I threw a couple handfuls of wood chips on top...time to get started.
You've probably heard, "I don't like using charcoal because I can taste the fuel on my food!". This is because of two things:
1. Not following directions and let the fire die out. And/Or...
2. Using entirely too much lighter fluid and not letting it burn off.
I kind of miss that "old school" smell of cooking with charcoal and wood. Once we started having kids I couldn't give up smoking or grilling so I went for convenience.
  • Gas Grill - cooking from start to finish without wasting any time.
  • Electric Smoker - set it, and forget it.
The thing about charcoal and wood, it's time consuming manipulating the nuances of fire and air to get the right temperature long term. We (my wife and I) both work and we have small kids...So, "NO!" to the days of finagling smokers and grills with "master techniques". But the smell was nostalgic if only for this weekend!

Wings & Breasts!
You can use a smoker as a grill to smoke meats like chicken wings, chicken breasts, thighs, burgers, hot-dogs...without going"low and slow". Low & Slow is for other cuts of meats like pork butt, ribs, brisket, and larger pieces/cuts of meat. -- Burgers, chicken wings, chicken breasts & thighs, stuff like that can be cooked at high temp over the coals with a handful of wood chips thrown in, it picks up plenty of the smoke flavor and they are done from 30 to 60 minutes start to finish.
My personal favorite is smoked wings, flash fried and buffalo sauced! (butter & hot sauce mixture, add garlic)
My "trick" worked out great for the weekend. Look, I know, I KNOW, that you have some experiences and stories like that yourself! Share them with us in the comments! Please, we would love to hear them!

PS. In my early college days we did this to a Gas Grill as well. We added an additional grate (read: food cooling rack) to help keep the charcoal in place where the gas burners used to be.

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